Featured Image: Outdoor dining along Rainier Avenue South. Photo is attributed to SDOT Photos under a Creative Commons 2.0 license.

New Polls Show Seattle Wants More People-Friendly Streets

by Agueda Pacheco Flores

Seattle has spoken, and they don’t just want better infrastructure, they want infrastructure that’s more pedestrian, bike, and business friendly. 

That’s according to new poll results released today by the Northwest Progressive Institute (NPI), a research and advocacy nonprofit based in Redmond, in partnership with Seattle Neighborhood Greenways (SNG). 

The poll, which was conducted in October leading up to the most recent election, surveyed 617 “likely voters” and has a 4.1% margin of error. The results come at a pivotal time when Seattle is likely to benefit from the bipartisan infrastructure bill signed into law by President Joe Biden on Monday.

At a press event Wednesday, which was livestreamed, NPI Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve applauded the strong and positive support for the ambitious ideas presented in the poll. 

“Of everything we tested, there was only one idea that people really weren’t enthusiastic about,” he said. 

The scales tipped against having property owners pay for fixing their own sidewalks, with 47% of respondents opposed to paying for sidewalk repairs. Of that 47%, 28% were strongly opposed. 

“Pretty much everything else got a big response, including, in most cases, total support in the 80s or the 70s,” Villeneuve said.

Pollsters asked three questions, each with a set of issues or topics tied to it. One question, for example, asked respondents to think about how important such things as safety, accessibility, affordability, racial equity, or health are when it comes to how funding will be allocated and managed for street space.

More than 80% of respondents, give or take, said health, a clean environment, racial equity, kid-friendly streets, convenience, affordability, safety, and accessibility are important factors for the city to take into account when investing in street infrastructure. 

“That’s really encouraging that people are already where activists are hoping that people will go — they’re already there — now what we need is for Seattle City Hall to step up and start making changes that will improve the city streets,” Villeneuve said.

Only 73% percent said happiness was an important factor to take into consideration when funding streets. 

The poll also asked whether respondents, as a result of COVID-19, supported or opposed removing lanes or parking spaces in lieu of other benefits and amenities, such as outdoor dining, designated bus lanes, bike lanes, and more walking space. 

Around 84% of respondents said they supported safer walking and biking routes for kids, parents, and teachers to use. The same percentage of respondents also supported more space for outdoor dining. 

At the press event, held at Cafe Pettirosso’s outdoor dining area, Mohammed Almatt, owner of the Aladdin Gyro-Cery & Deli in the University District, talked about the homeless community around his restaurant. He said he wants there to be more safety and protection measures, such as patrols, in place not only for his customers but for the homeless as well. He added that the building where his store is located had been broken into just in the last two weeks. 

“Outdoor dining is really important,” he said. “I think it has much more purpose and much more help than having parking outside.” 

Almatt added that he wants outdoor seating to become permanent since it could prevent more local shops and restaurants from going out of business. 

NPI also asked respondents about their support or opposition to specific changes that would be needed to reach the goals outlined in the first two questions. Some of those changes include providing more homes and retail space in the city so people won’t have to walk more than 15 minutes for any daily need; 81 percent of respondents supported that change. Another significant change respondents were surveyed about was whether they supported shifting the onus of traffic enforcement from the Seattle Police Department to the Seattle Department of Transportation; 73% of respondents supported shifting that duty to SDOT. 

Among the speakers at the press event was Juan Jose Bocanegra, the founder of El Centro de la Raza and a former director of All In For Washington. He said it was “great news” to see more people thinking about the issue of policing. He also noted how controversial the conversation around dividing the police is but said it’s normal for that to occur in many city and state departments.

“We’ve always divided departments based on the needs and based on the reaction of the people, of their community,” he said. “This should give our policymakers a clear indication of what People of Color have been telling them for decades, for centuries, about the use of police against us.”

NPI Director Villeneuve said NPI and SNG plan to send the results of the polls to City Hall. 

“I think it has really enhanced our understanding of where Seattlites are,” he said. “It’s important that Seattle elected officials know what people in Seattle think about the issues, and there’s not a lot of polling being done these days about anything.”

Agueda Pacheco Flores is a journalist focusing on Latinx culture and Mexican American identity. Originally from Querétaro, Mexico, Pacheco is inspired by her own bicultural upbringing as an undocumented immigrant and proud Washingtonian.

📸 Featured Image: Outdoor dining along Rainier Avenue South. Photo is attributed to SDOT Photos under a Creative Commons 2.0 license.

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